Our country's schools, colleges and universities are in the news everyday….for the wrong reasons. The recent fiasco that took place in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi is the latest to be added to the list. Tragedy has struck our country. The day our education institutions permitted politics in students' activities, tragedy struck deep.
This Editorial is not about who or what is right or wrong in the JNU episode, but about the fundamental issue, about what educational institutions are meant to be, and what students are meant to do in these institutions.
Thiruvalluvar, a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher of around the first century B.C. wrote the following Thirukkural about education:
"கற்க கசடறக் கற்பவை கற்றபின் நிற்க அதற்குத் தக." (குறள் 391) (Transliteration: kaRka kasadaRak kaRpavai katrapin niRka adhaRkuth thaga. Kural 391)
Translated, it reads, "Whatever is to be learnt should be learnt flawlessly so that the learning imbibed shapes one's conduct."
Education and educational institutions are meant to groom the young minds and the youth to equip them with right knowledge, thinking, ethics and etiquette and prepare them as well-informed, responsible, mature and thinking citizens. No doubt, this objective might sound archaic, but time cannot change the truth.
I remember the era, when student unions were healthy groups that respected and tolerated differences of opinion, won college elections through healthy debates that showcased their calibre, and efficiently looked after the students' welfare without the influence or interference of outsiders, or adverse factors (read 'politics'). Today, students and their impressionable minds are exploited and used by politicians, activists, marketers, radicals, and terrorists. Education too has become a process for factory-manufactured graduates. In the name of grooming them to be future leaders, students are misguided to practise politics and be influenced by political parties. The outcome, in many cases, is the churning out of degree certificate holders earned through rote-learning, cheating or bribery, with little direction and life values. The meritorious graduates are a minority and they either migrate abroad or are silenced in helplessness or confine to their own selfish worlds.
The only solution for recovering the sanctity of education and educational institutions and our students' scholarly activities, is to banish and abolish politics from all educational institutions. We need to revert to ancient wisdom and practice and follow what Thiruvalluvar professed in his 391st Thirukkural – learn well and be a good citizen. I would add – let good ethics be the guide, not politics or fanaticism.
By Susan Koshy, Editor, PreSense